Olive Garden is whipping up changes in the kitchen, but the breadsticks aren't going anywhere.
The Darden Restaurants unit is doubling down on Italian comfort food as it revamps its offerings with several new items set to debut Monday. Olive Garden executive chef Jim Nuetzi said the company is focusing menu development on core items like the breadsticks the restaurant is known for. The moves follow a lengthy presentation last year from activist investor Starboard Value urging it to "recreate Italian authenticity within Olive Garden."
(It famously suggested the chain start salting its pasta water, which went down as one of Wall Street's more unique recommendations in the recent past).
So what exactly is going on in Olive Garden's test kitchen?
Nuetzi said lasagna rollatinis were on tap, as were "deconstructed lasagnas." The rollatini are currently in test while the deconstructed lasagnas have been in test but just have not been released yet.
In addition to these tests, Olive Garden is also working on a meatball stuffed with provolone cheese.
With two new breadstick sandwiches set to debut June 1, the restaurant is not finished pushing the breadstick frontier.
"We have (breadstick) crostini that we're working on," and will debut in August, Nuetzi said.
As it adds items to its menu, Olive Garden plans to remove two filet mignon dishes that "have not been working out well."